Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind attacks “flawed” travel plans

A CHARITY represen-ting 20,000 blind people in Norfolk is calling for County Hall to reverse a decision to scrap their free early morning bus travel by using part of the council’s newly identified �4.2m budget underspend.

The Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind says consultation over the decision to axe the concessionary scheme was flawed, and that many working registered blind people will be denied the ability to get to work on time as a result.

The County Council – which takes over responsibility for running the county’s concessionary bus pass scheme from April 1 – says it cannot afford to fund the existing scheme, and plans to push back the time from when bus passes become valid to 9.30am.

The new restriction will also apply to over-60s, who receive free bus passes under a different scheme, but the NNAB says it will be working blind people who are hardest hit because they use them to earn a living, not merely for social or leisure purposes. “We are taking legal advice about whether this decision can be taken to judicial review,” said charity director John Child.

Mike Cassidy has been blind since birth, but as a qualified physiotherapist has no problems holding down a busy and fulfilling job at the Cranbrook Centre at Great Yarmouth’s Northgate Hospital. He has been using the bus to get to work from his home in Gorleston for more than 30 years and reckons withdrawing the early morning travel concession will cost him about �10 a week.

He said: “Free bus travel for the blind has been in place for many years, certainly ever since I started using the scheme, and I’ve very much appreciated it because I have no other choice of transport apart from cadging lifts. It enables me to keep my independence and not impose on anyone else. I appreciate the county council has got to make swingeing cuts, but the number of blind people of working age using this facility is very low and it is unnecessarily harsh to demolish this precedent for the amount of money that would be saved.”